As a language service provider, eSense Translations deals with a lot of written translation work both into and from English. We are therefore aware of how tricky the English language can be and how the many rules surrounding the written grammar can often trip people up, particularly if you are not a native speaker and are learning the language.
This week we share 7 of the most common errors in English grammar that can occur and aim to help you understand how to avoid them.
Many of the common grammatical errors that occur in the English language are due to the incorrect use of homophones. These are words that are pronounced the same, but have different meanings and are used differently within a sentence. The first four English grammatical errors in our blog therefore deal with the misuse of these words.
1) You’re or your?
‘Your’ indicates possession and is technically labelled as a possessive adjective, as it describes the noun that follows it.
Have you remembered to bring your book?
‘Your’ is describing the book and indicates that it belongs to you.
‘You’re’ is a contraction, or shortened version, of ‘you are.’
If you are unsure about which of these two to use, ask yourself, can I replace the word with ‘you are’ so that the sentence still makes sense?
‘You’re not going to arrive until 10am,’ could be changed to ‘You are not going to arrive until 10am.’
However in our first example above, we cannot say, ‘Have you remembered to bring you are book?’ It doesn’t make sense.
2) There, their or they’re?
‘There’ can be used to indicate a place or location.
He’s over there.
It can also be used to indicate a state of something.
There are 11 players in a football team.
‘Their’ is another example of possession; this time the plural variety.
Their books are on the shelf.
‘They’re’ is another example of a contraction, short for ‘they are’.
Again, ask yourself if the word can be replaced with the extended version, if you are unsure.
‘They’re going to arrive before lunch’ can be changed correctly to ‘They are going to arrive before lunch.’
3) It’s or its
Here we have a further example of contraction and possession, and the apostrophe in this example is one of the most frequently misused.
‘Its’ refers to belonging to it.
The dog has lost its bone.
‘It’s’ is short for ‘it is’.
It’s very cold today.
Remember the dog cannot lose ‘it is’ bone, so make sure that apostrophe is not incorrectly added here!
4) To, too, two
For our final set of homophones, we have three words that are often confused; most particularly ‘to’ and ‘too’.
‘To’ has a couple of different uses. It can be used as the infinitive form of a verb.
I like to read.
It can also be used to indicate direction, if you are travelling towards somewhere:
I am travelling to Manchester.
‘Too’ is another way to say ‘also’ or ‘as well’.
I like cats, but I like dogs too.
Would you like to come too?
Finally, in this group of words is ‘two’, which is the number or amount.
I have two hands and two feet!
5) Colon or semicolon ( ; or : )
These two punctuation marks are often used incorrectly and can also sometimes be added mistakenly in place of a simple comma.
A colon ( : ) is used to provide a pause in a sentence before introducing further related information. There are three mains uses for this punctuation mark.
It could be used to introduce a list of items.
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It can also be used to separate two main clauses, where the second one explains the first.
Learning English can be tricky: There are many grammar rules to consider.
Finally, a colon can be used before a quotation or sometimes to indicate speech.
The actress revealed: ‘I found this role very difficult.’
The teacher explained: ‘Taking time to understand English grammar will help improve your writing immensely.’
A semicolon is used to indicate a break in a sentence that is stronger than a comma, but not as final as a full stop. The two clauses it sits between should be too closely related to be used as separate sentences.
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6) ‘i.e.’ or ‘e.g.’
‘I.e.’ is the Latin abbreviation of ‘id est’ and means ‘that is’. A further clarification of the statement then usually follows.
Birmingham’s newly refurbished train station, i.e. Birmingham New Street, is a vibrant new attraction to the city.
‘E.g.’ is also an abbreviated Latin word (exempli gratia) and means ‘for example.’
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7) Subject and Verb agreement
In English, as with many other languages, the formation of the verb changes depending on what subject is used. With translation, this is one area where particular attention needs to be paid to ensure the sentence reads correctly.
Here are some examples of correct subject-verb agreement in a sentence.
I read the text carefully.
You read the text carefully.
He / She reads the text carefully.
We read the text carefully.
This is all before we consider the tense in which the verb is written. The above examples are all written in the present tense, but would need to be reviewed again if they needed to be written in the past or future. eSense Translations will address this again in a future blog.
Writing in English is a skill that can take time to master effectively and there are many grammatical rules that may trip you up along the way. Reading regularly will assist you in improving your own writing. However, rather than worrying about all the different rules and being hesitant in putting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard!), just practise.
What errors do you come across in regards to English grammar? Share your examples below, along with the correct versions.
By Lorna Paice